The Government is offering wellbeing support to fruit growers facing tough times.
New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZPA) says the industry now expects the export share of the gross national crop to be around 347,718 metric tonnes of 19.3 million cartons.
This is 14% below the 2020 gross national crop, representing a $95 - $100 million year on year reduction of export earnings.
In January, the industry was forecasting a gross national crop of 558,672 metric tonnes, 5% down on the 2020 harvest.
The export share of the gross crop was forecast to be 374,751 metric tonnes (20.8 million cartons), 7% down on 2020, reflecting a shortage of available labour and significant hail events in the Nelson and Central Otago regions.
But NZPA chief executive Alan Pollard says as peak harvest nears it has become increasingly clear that the sector will not achieve those initial forecasts.
“Labour availability on orchards and in our post-harvest operations is well short of numbers needed by the industry despite doing all we can to attract New Zealanders into work. In addition, the fruit size is coming in smaller on average than we forecast.”
Of the varieties exported, Braeburn is the most significantly impacted with a revised estimate of 1,468,000 cartons some 44% below 2020 levels.
Royal Gala, which remains the variety with the largest share of exports, is now forecast to be 15% or 1,088,000 cartons down on 2020, with Cripps Pink at 15% down and Fuji 19% down.
On the other hand, Dazzle, Envy, Honeycrisp and Rockit continue to show strong growth as new plantings come into production.
“While the size profile is smaller than we expected, putting premium sizes into short supply, quality remains very good, and the fruit is well coloured,” says Pollard.
“New Zealand has a global reputation for reliability, consistency and quality, and 2021 will be no exception. Demand is strong in our key markets, but we remain concerned about continuing disruption to international shipping schedules and port congestion.”